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tv   Martin Bashir  MSNBC  April 17, 2013 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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comb through evidence. >> a circuit board, timers. >> pieces of black nylon. what appear to be fragments of bbs and nails. >> they've identified a number of people in these pictures they've looked at. >> another campaign of fear begins with suspicious packages delivered to congress and the white house. >> it may literally come down to one or two senators. >> i don't want anybody that votes against violent criminals being able to -- >> we have over 90% of the senate democrats. if we just had 20% of our republican colleagues, this thing would be home. >> i choose to vote my conscience. we have a very busy hour ahead with breaking news on multiple fronts today. we're watching the senate where at any moment lawmakers are due to begin voting on new gun safety measures introduced in the aftermath of the newtown
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tragedy. unfortunately, it appears that a bipartisan amendment to expand background checks will fail. as will bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. and there are new security concerns at the capitol. a letter addressed to president obama field tested positive for ricin poison. the day after a letter was also sent to senator roger wicker also tested positive for the same substance. we begin with new information about the deadly bombing at the boston marathon. as the president and first lady prepare to travel to boston on thursday. after much speculation this afternoon, the fbi has releasted a statement. they say, quote, contrary to widespread reporting, there have been no arrests made in connection with the boston marathon attack. we do know investigators have identified solid leads from video evidence, including images of a person or persons carrying and dropping bags at the bombing scene. now, these pictures from whdh show a bag near a trash can at the blast site. just one part of the key evidence that investigators are
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pursuing to try to find the perpetrators. right now, there are conflicting reports as to how close they are to identifying any individuals. we expect more at an fbi briefing within the next hour. right now i want to go straight to nbc news justice correspondent, pete williams, in washington. pete, there's been a lot of back and forth this afternoon. straighten it out for us. what have you heard about a potential person of interest and where are we in this investigation? >> well, what we're told is that the pictures have been quite valuable. that they've found from a surveillance camera on a building -- and this makes sense if you think about the building surveillance camera being up high so that it can look down on the crowd and get a sort of bird's eye view. that they think that they see a picture of exactly what they're looking for. someone setting down a backpack or a duffel bag and then walking away. that's the kind of picture they're looking for. they have seen a face on that picture, we're told. they're now trying to figure out who that person is, find them and question them.
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that's where it stands right now. we're told they don't know who that person is, but it's a rapidly moving investigation. i'm sure everyone would like to have this whole thing wrapped up by the time the president gets there tomorrow. i suppose that's possible. it's also possible that this could take a long time. >> sure. >> so that's one avenue of inquiry. the other is the very productive look at the bomb pieces themselves, which were mangled, but not blown to bits by the explosion. so they have some very large pieces that they can look at and try to figure out where they came from. >> pete, it's very remarkable just the volume of forensic evidence they've been able to collect. i think you said something like 97% of the bomb making materials are actually able to be recovered? >> well, yes. what they say is that under the right conditions, it is possible to recover 93% to 98% of a bomb after it's blown up. because the pieces are not consumed by the explosion. especially one like this that has a relatively low level
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explosive in it. they're out there. they can find them. they hope they can round up enough to reconstruct the devices. and the pieces that we've seen in pictures are pretty big. >> now, as if we didn't have enough breaking news, we're hearing that they're clearing the federal courthouse in boston. what can you tell us about that. >> i'm told it's a bomb threat. >> and let's also talk about the forensic evidence, pete. where are we in the efforts to piece together this attack? i noticed earlier today you've talked about just the volume of pictures that have been made available. sort of a remarkable amount of information. what else are you hearing about what's been found at the scene? >> well, those are the two main things. now, of course, there's also witnesses. they've been questioning witnesses. and just to indicate how thorough this investigation is, people that they know who were around the area where the bombs went off, they're actually checking their clothes. looking for residue of the explosive material that might be in the clothes. anything else that would be a tell-tale about how this bomb
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was put together. so it's a very thorough attempt to get around the spots where these explosions went off and gather as much information as they can of all sorts of materials. >> nbc's pete williams, thanks so much. joining us now in new york, michael leiter, an nbc news terrorism expert and former director of the national counterterrorism center. with us from boston, kevin cullen, columnist with "the boston globe." michael, you and i were just talking about, just with the volume of forensic evidence, how are they making decisions about what leads to pursue and sort of what to do with all this evidence? >> yes. there's a huge amount of physical evidence, digital media. that's the videotape and the like. and there's, of course, all the intelligence that we're not hearing about and we shouldn't hear about. the clandestinely collected human intelligence, signals intelligence. phone calls, e ma-mails and the like. what you have is a large joint terrorism task force in boston that is kind of collecting a lot of this. back in washington you have
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fundamentally every bit of the federal government, department of homeland security, fbi, putting hundreds if not thousands of people on this. prioritizing that is a really key element. at the very beginning, they're going to pursue almost everything that looks relevant. and really only later in the investigation do they start to narrow down what they cast aside. because you really don't want to narrow your view until you've got a very firm idea of what you're looking for and what you want to see. because you'll miss something if you do. >> we've sort of seen that today, right? on the one hand it's incredible in this age of technology that they're able to get so much incoming information from so many different sources. on the other hand, as you say, you then have to make sure that you are whittling that down to the right sources of information. >> that's right. in this case on the video front and the photographic front, they've got a huge advantage. they know where the explosions were. you can actually work out from there. krou don't know where the videos and photos came from the public. but in terms of buildings, once you have a picture of anyone suspicious, you move out and you, you know, rapidly moving
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circles. how long would it take if someone was walking? let's look at that video camera. you try to piece this together. that's what what was done by the british officials after the bombing on 7/7 in 2005 and they were fundamentally able to track them all the way back to their homes. >> kevin, we just learned today the name of the third tragic fatality in this bombing. ling si lu, a graduate student from china studying statistics at boston university. i don't need to tell you the emotions around this tragic event. how are bostonians coping? it's been a couple of days. what's the mood there? >> karen, i tell you, today, it's a beautiful day here in boston. i've been around the back bay all day. what i notice most is sort of the normalcy that's returned to here. i've said this before. it's an old saying in boston. we only care about three things in this town.
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politics, sports and revenge. our revenge is to go back to normal. what happened the other day will not change us. it's poignant that you just mentioned the third victim being named was a chinese national. because boston is an international city. it's never more international than it is on patriots day, the marathon day, when we have people from all over the world running in this race. on that day if you go back and look at the footage, the last part of the race, the last part of that finishing line, the flags of every country in the world line boyleston street. when that bomb exploded, the first responders had to tear those flags down and get to the victims. and those flags lay on the street like victims themselves. so what happened the other day was not just an attack against boston. just not an attack against the boston marathon. it was an attack against all of us. >> you know, to your point, it shows -- it's ememblematic of
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those who participate in the marathon, watch the marathon, participate in patriots day. this has been a community wide celebration in years past. >> oh, yeah. and it will continue. i will predict that next year at this time, you will see the biggest turnout ever for the boston marathon in terms of runners and in terms of spectators. this will not change the way we do things here. the other thing i'd say is that i bumped into a 23-year-old young lady. she's a graduate student at harvard. and she only moved to the back bay neighborhood last september. and she actually stayed monday night with her boyfriend outside of brookline. she didn't know what she'd get when she came back here. what she said she got were neighbors who had only nodded to her before who stopped her in the hallway and said, how are you? are you okay? i think there has been a change in that neighborhood. it is something of a transit neighborhood. it borders a commercial area. but it's -- i mean, i was in london for 7/7. i was in omar in northern ireland when that bomb exploded, when 28 people and an unborn child were killed.
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the reactions in all three of those places -- now, this is my hometown. the reaction is the same because human beings are the same. we take care of each other after things like this. >> michael, in this sort of state of heightened alert we've also seen today a bomb scare at the federal courthouse in boston as well as a ricin letter sent to the white house. we do seem to see these kinds of things after a major incident. why is that? what is it that encouraging people to sort of do these things. >> it's the old adage. when it rains it pours. it makes it very hard for investigators, i would note. you're focused on the real thing. meanwhile you've got to beat back the things which maybe aren't so real. the bomb scare in boston i would put in the size probably of people like to make things happen and see what they do on tv. the ricin i think it's a little different. here we have field tests that are positive. i think totally unrelated. and now we just have to wait the 24 or 48 hours to see if it was actually toxic ricin rather than
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yus the ricin protein in there. the timing with the letters and when they would be received versus the bombing, i think it's unlikely that the two really are related in any way. >> just unfortunate timing. >> very unfortunate timing. michael leiter, kevin cullen, thank you so much. >> thank you. coming up, the politics of the gun debate on full display. a defining moment in the senate. >> i think there's a time in our life, a defining time in public service. a time when you have the ability to stand, when you know the facts are on your side. and walk into the lion's den. and look that lion in the eye. and tell that lion, listen, not today. not today. [ male announcer ] this is joe woods' first day of work.
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we're continuing to follow breaking news about possible persons of interests related to the boston marathon following. but right now we've got breaking news from the senate floor. senators are voting on a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for firearms purchases. now, the vote which has invoked such passion that vice president biden actually left a google hangout to be on the senate floor is expected to fail. polls show that 90% of the country endorsing these measures. a separate bill, democratic, to deter firearms trafficking is also expected to be voted on. however, never let it be said that the authors of the background check amendment didn't try. hours earlier senator joe manchin of west virginia took to the senate floor with his nra card in hand and pleaded with his colleagues to reject the nra's misinformation and fearmongering about supposed criminalization of private transfers of guns. >> where i come from in west virginia, i don't know how to put the words any plainer than this. that is a lie.
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that is simply a lie. and anybody that can read knows that's not factual. >> the nra, however, seems to have successfully clouded the debate thanks in part to demonostra bli false ads like this one which suggest police officers don't like background checks. also in part to republican and even a few democratic senators who've been willing to carry the nra's water. >> if you decide you want to sell your shotgun and you put an advertisement in craigslist, under that bill, before you can do so, you have to go through the federal government background check. >> really, senator cruz? what's your fear? that's your fear? strang strangers won't have the right to sell guns to strangers on craigslist? amazing. joining me now, nbc's luke russert who covers capitol hill and jonathan capehart, political writer for "washington post" and
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msnbc contributor. luke, are they going to have the votes in the end or not? >> most likely not. 60 is a very steep hill for this. the reason why, a lot of those republican senators who voted for this to move forward on cloture have now backtracked. what's interesting, though, i think that's really happened here is two things. everyone's attention shifted to boston, to the pr push that the gun control lobby that they would have is not the same. the newtown families aren't registers as much today as they would have had that tragedy in boston not occurred. number two, boehner in the house put out a pretty declarative statement last week. we're going to water down whatever comes out of the senate. if you're a republican senator, if you're a red state democrat, why go out on a limb for this when the house is probably going to sit on it?
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>> harry reid, i mean, he knows when he's got the votes and when he doesn't. why would he proceed with this? i mean, i wonder, is that part of the pr strategy? put it on the floor, let it fail and then let the energy come back to this debate? >> certainly. i think that's what joe biden has said. if we don't get it today we're going to get it some other time. for this to happen, to even get this type of bill moved forward, there seeds to be what we saw 10, 15 years ago. a million mile march. more newtown families. people like that that can resonate with the american public saying 90% of us want this. you've got to come along and not fear a primary vote. >> senator manchin called every nra talking point hogwash, laws. he was very strong. yet the hogwash and lies seem to be working. >> seem to be working because they always work. h is what the nra does. we knew this after newtown when, you know, all the energy bubbled
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up. folks were calling for an assault weapons ban and background checks and straw purchases and bills on trafficking, that the nra would somehow find a way to keep this from happening. the nra has been around a long time. the energy and passion we saw from december 14th has to continue. what happens today, what's happening in the senate right now, shouldn't be something that deters those newtown families and all those other families in cities across the country from pushing to get something done. this is a long haul process. this is not something that turns on, you know, one failed vote. >> isn't there a risk? one of the things that strikes me, we're talking about a vote on a watered down bill. progressives and people supporting the legislation have even said, is it really what we want? no. is it the best we can get? is it an expansion, is it an improvement? yes. it's watered down. and we're still having this trouble with this bill. >> one thing to keep in mind, something that luke talked about earlier, which is, great, watered down bill gets voted on in the senate. let's say it -- let's say by
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some miracle this manchin/toomey bill passes or something else passes. it then goes over to the house where this watered down -- i don't know what's less than water. mist? >> literally. >> luke, let me ask you, just from a strategic perspective, we've noticed the president has really largely stayed away from it. that seems to have played into the strategy -- although the bill is going to fail, it certainly seems to have been helpful in this part of the process. >> i think he absolutely had to. look at that ad we saw from the nra going into this. obama's background check bill. obama's gun control bill. obama's bill to limit your ammunitions. to let a guy like joe manchin go forward and negotiate this was a very brilliant strategy because he's a red state democrat who carries an "a" from the nra and has a lot of respect in that community. i think it was a smart play from the white house. you don't want president obama out front on this. you want him to keep the pressure from the bully pulpit in a sense of having the rallies
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in hartford. in the terms of the actual legislation, less is more in terms of what the white house thinks. >> the other thing, jonathan, we were hearing earlier this week was that the strategy was going to be -- you know, i have this vision in my head of a christmas tree where you hang as much on it as you can so you essentially end up killing the bill. we'd heard that was both on the house side and the senate side, that that was going to be part of the strategy. regardless of what happens today, it's still very much in question what the final outcome could be. >> right, yeah. it is very much in question what the final outcome will be in the senate and still i go -- i go back to whatever comes out of the senate, it then goes to the house. which will be sort of a reversal. because when i first got to washington it was always the action was in the house. the senate was where bills went to die. now, you know, president obama's second term with republicans in the majority in the house, it's the senate that's cooking things up and then it goes over to the house where it will die and never see the light of day.
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>> luke, final question to you. the other sort of activity on the hill today, ricin letters, various packages, suspicious packages. what are you hearing in terms of the mood on the hill today in terms of that? >> look, i don't think people should really read too much into this. if you think president obama, he's been in office now almost five years. and if you don't think this has happened to some capacity, that suspicious letters have been sent to him or other senators on the hill, it definitely has. we're just very hypervigilant now. folks on capitol hill are used to this. it's one of the most dangerous places in the world to work. it's something people accept there. they're not fearful of it. people were expecting it this week. there was going to be a lot of bomb scares. you were going to see suspicious packages, substances fgalore. no one's really batting an eye. >> luke russert and jonathan capehart, thank you. we'll keep an eye on that final vote tally for you. coming up, the push for a person of interest intensifies in boston. switch your car insurance to
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you can rent a car without a reservation... and without a line. now that's a fast car. it's just another way you'll be traveling at the speed of hertz. we obviously meet at a time when our thoughts and prayers are with the people of boston. our hearts are with the families of the victims, and now we send our support and encouragement to people who never expected they would need it. the wounded civilians who are just beginning i'm sure for some of them a long road to recovery. it's a road that the remarkable warriors and athletes here know all too well. and as a consequence they're going to serve for all of the families as well as all americans a continued inspiration. >> that was president obama just moments ago at the white house discussing the boston marathon
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bombing at an event for wounded warriors. today authorities have been sifting through debris and through thousands upon thousands of images of what happened on monday. in the last few hours the investigation seems to have been picking up at a very rapid pace. let's get the latest from nbc's michael isikoff. there's a lot that's been happening. bring us up to speed on where we are in this investigation. >> reporter: first of all, i should point out, karen, we're going to learn hopefully a lot more in just a little while. there's a 5:00 press briefing that the fbi has scheduled. i think it's the expectation they'll be able to sort through all the conflicting reports we've been getting all day. we do know that there have been some significant progress in the investigation. based on those videos. particularly the one taken outside the -- by the camera at the lord & taylor department store which is right behind where this second bomb blast went off. and from the video of that -- from the footage of that video camera, authorities, we're told,
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were able to identify an individual dropping off a black bag at the -- at the site where the bomb is believed to have exploded. and that a facial image of that man has been captured. now, what is unclear is whether or not authorities know who that individual is, much less whether they've been able to find that individual. and we're told definitively that certainly that suspect, that individual has not been arrested. he is not a suspect at this point. he is a person of interest. and we'll see exactly how the fbi categorizes him and what it's been able to learn in a few short minutes. >> michael, to that point, things have moved so quickly this afternoon. all kinds of conflicting reports about this particular individual. the fbi seemed to put out a statement that really sounded a tone of cautious to people who were maybe jumping to
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conclusions. >> reporter: well, exactly. that was because there were reports by media outlets that an individual had been arrested. that the case had been solved. and even that the suspect was being brought into custody at the federal courthouse here and that prompted a lot of news media and others to congregate at the moekly courthouse. a short while later there was some sort of threat at the courthouse and the courthouse was evacuated. in any case it wasn't true. once again, as so often happens in these very high-profile investigations, wrong, erroneous reports get out there. they pick up -- they get a lot of attention. and they have to be corrected. now, we'll see, as i said, in a few short minutes exactly where authorities say they are right now. but it is a sign that we do have to be cautious. and remember what we don't know
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as much as what we know in a case like this. >> nbc's michael isikoff, thank you. we want to report that the 5:00 p.m. briefing in boston has actually been temporarily suspended. we're going to turn now to representative bill keaton. he's a democrat who represents the ninth district in massachusetts. sir, thank you so much for joining me. >> thank you for having us. >> before you were a member of congress you were a district attorney. i wanted to get your take on, you know, obviously we've talked about the reams of different pieces of evidence that are being collected which will at some point need to be put together to build a case. so what -- what are they looking for towards that end? >> well, you know, michael summed it up so well. he said one word that everyone should bear in mind right now. patience. do not read into any delay or any cat gorization one way or the other as a lack of progress in the case or nothing being done. at this juncture right now for law enforcement officials and
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prosecutors, they are going to be very careful the way they approach -- they don't want to do anything that could hinder a future case. they don't want to be sidetracked down another road where they're taking valuable resources away from where, you know, they should be going. also, if there's delays, you could just speculate, and this is purely speculation, that maybe the person is talking. maybe they're gathering important information, whether the person is a suspect or not. maybe they're taking this opportunity if they have enough evidence for a search warrant. we don't know these things. as a matter of fact, as a public official, i don't want to know those things. because those are issues that are held closely by investigators that'll advance their investigation. so people should be patient. they shouldn't read one way or the other into these things. as michael mentioned, there is -- has been confirmation that
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they have an image of a man. and they have that image available where the person put down, you know, a bag in the area of the -- where the bomb went off. that's significant progress right there. yesterday we told people, and i talked to the secretary of homeland security, and we were talking about just the volume of tape that they have to go through for this and the eyewitness accounts. so there's a mountain of evidence. they're going through it. they want to be sure they get it right. and the public should be pleased that, you know, they're sitting there making progress one way or the other. and be a little patient at this time. >> so, congressman, i know you've been briefed a number of times. are you confident in terms of the way this investigation is proceeding based on -- i know those are confidential briefings. but do you feel confident in the way the investigation is proceeding at this point? >> my confidence stems from what i knew before this terrible tragedy occurred. it stems from being in the
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fugent center where the joint task force works. the federal, state and local officials, they meet every single day in person and they exchange information. just as a routine. they have the biggest exercise in all of new england and one of the biggest in all of the country last november where they went through hoip thet cals like this in training. they brought together almost 2,000 law enforcement officials. when the president of the united states tells people like myself and massachusetts that you're going to have the whole assets of the united states government to assist you, all those things together give me a very high degree of confidence that we're going to get the person that's responsible and them be brought to justice. that more than any detailed information that really shouldn't be shared with the public right now because it could jeopardyize the information. >> sure. absolutely. congressman, shifting a gears a little bit, how concerned are you and your colleagues on capitol hill and what's sort of the mood? we've heard about these letters which have initially tested
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positive for ricin. >> well, thank you for asking for that. just so i can include one topic matter. i think the public should be aware, since i've come back, and i think it's the same with the massachusetts members, the amount of compassion and conc n concern, genuine and heartfelt concern from other members of congress, is just hard to put into words. the people of boston should know that people all around the country are with them at this moment and really was quite moving to me. in terms of the letters that were there, i always -- let me put it this way. i always tell constituents that are trying to contact our office, go by e-mail or use the telephone or something if there's an immediacy there. there's a process in place, unfortunately, because of past incidents that have happened where those pieces of mail are screened. so that fortunately having these things in place, the good news
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side of it is that that's being done. with members of congress, as with the people of boston, we're not going around cowering. we're not fearful. we're doing our business. we're going forward with our lives in a resolute manner. and this has not deterred or frightened individuals here in congress just as the terrible event in the marathon in boston has not frightened the people in the boston area. >> thank you, congressman bill keating. we do have breaking news from the capitol. moments ago republicans successfully filibustered a bipartisan bill on background checks. the final vote, 54 in favor of the bill. only 46 opposed. coming up, the crude weapons of war from afghanistan to boston. stay with us.
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we have an update now on injuries from the boston marathon bombings.
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more than 170 people were injured in total. as of this afternoon 65 of them remain hospitalized. we're not used to seeing this happen on the streets of boston's back bay. but the improvised explosive devices and the wounds they inflict are all too common in war zones like afghanistan. our next guest along with film maker tim heatherington spent a year imbedded with the u.s. army platoon on the front lines. we're joined by best selling author sebastian younger. his latest work is a documentary called "which way is the front line from here?" the life and times of timothy heatherington. one of the things i've found rather chilling, we saw in boston, it was iraq and afghanistan veterans who, you know, were there to help with the injuries and knew how to treat some of these injuries. similar to the guys that you were with when you were in afghanistan. tell us about those guys. >> well, i think all soldiers are trained in front line combat medicine. and those kinds of injuries, the
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main priority is stopping the loss of blood. my friend tim was killed not by ied but by a mortar in libya two years ago. he died of blood loss. similar kind of injuries, amputations, that kind of thing. very similar. >> you and tim were committed to presenting such an authentic picture of soldiers on the front lines. we've learned in the aftermath of monday's bombings that, you know, these heroes, the iraqi and afghanistan veterans who happened to be on site, as you say, they knew how to react. were you surprised when you learned that it was an ied? >> well, it was a pressure cooker bomb. and the -- it was in afghanistan they bury them usually under the surface of the road. the humvee i was in was blown up by a pressure cooker bomb in 2008. i got it on video. it's the beginning of my movie. very similar device to the one
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in boston, i guess. no, i wasn't surprised. i mean, this is very low level technology. it's available on the internet to foreign jihadis or american malcontents. >> one of the thing that strucks me in the work you and tim have done together, the way you, again, try to present this authentic picture. that seems like that takes you this way of getting in there and earning the trust of the people that you're covering. how do you and tim -- how did you and tim do that? >> we did that by spending off and on a whole year with 30 men, a platoon. at a very remote outpost. everyone had to count on each other, including tim and myself. tim and i could not fall out on a patrol. we had to act responsibly. we gradually gained their trust because essentially we functioned like soldiers. we also were not interested in a strategic or political analysis of the war. we were solely trying to document their experience, their lives at this remote outpost. and once they figured that out, they were really, really very good with us.
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we actually came to be very close to them sfwl we've actually got some footage of tim heatherington in action. here he is with u.s. soldiers in afghanistan. let's take a look. >> you're always looking for those moments where the machine breaks down. where there's cracks in it. i think what happened to us in terms of being given access into this remote valley in afghanistan was that people kind of forgot about us. and i think it was that persistence going back and back that gave us such unique access. >> what do you want people to know about tim heatherington when they watch this film? >> well, a few things. i mean, first of all, i want people to understand how dangerous the job of foreign reporting is. it costs lives all the time. 28 journalists have been killed in syria alone in the past two years. tim led a big life. he was curious. he was incredibly compassionate. he wanted to know about people's lives. and he wanted to know about taxi drivers in new york city, about afghan refugees, about american soldiers, the powerful, the powerless. he wanted to understand
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everybody. and he captured with his video camera and with his still photography, he captured people's realities all across the world. it's a very powerful thing. >> i read something where you talked about the fact that he had a unique ability -- i think you said he was an image maker. it wasn't just about photography or video. that he really tried to bring all of these pieces together. is that what made his work so special? >> he wouldn't call himself a photographer. he said he was an image maker. he wanted to tell stories using images. his camera was just a tool to do that. i think he would have used crayons to tell stories if they had told the story more effectively. but he didn't have a particular allegiance to the camera, per se. no. >> just talking about the soldiers, i happen to have a soldier imbedded in afghanistan. tell us, what do people need to know about these men? why are they fighting? why are they there running toward the danger, being in the danger? what should we know about them? >> the guys i know from the platoon, they joined the military sometimes because of 9/11, but mostly because they wanted to experience combat.
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many of them had fathers in vietnam, grandfathers in world war ii. they played war when they were little boys. they got to be 18, they joined the army. they were out there because they made a personal choice. they didn't debate the poll tit of the war because it was their choice that put them out there. in the moment, in combat, they're not fighting for the flag at all. they're not fighting for this country. they're fighting for each other. they're fighting for survival is basically what they're doing. i think there's sort of a grander, loftier notions that come into play when they sit back and maybe think about why they joined the army. but in that moment in combat, it's their brothers. >> sebastian junger, thank you so much. coming up, the president and first lady prepare to head to boston as the bombing investigation intensifies. [ male announcer ] at his current pace, bob will retire when he's 153, which would be fine if bob were a vampire. but he's not. ♪ he's an architect with two kids and a mortgage.
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president obama will hold a press conference at 5:30 eastern following the failure of senate
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bipartisan plan on background checks. let's bring in nbc white house toernt kristen welker. what can you tell us what the president is expected to say at 5:30? >> reporter: karen, he's going to react to the fact that the manchin/toomey compromise was just defeated in the senate. and i expect we will hear him make similar arguments for expanding background checks to the ones that we have heard him make in the past. you'll probably hear him reference the fact that according to polls, 90% of americans actually support expanding background checks. this is a defeat, obviously, for toomey and manchin and the senators who supported this legislation. but it's also a defeat for president obama. he, of course, made enacting stiffer gun laws one of his key goals in this second term in the wake of the newtown tragedy. he has been traveling across the country, pressing for this. meeting with newtown families. of course, the newtown families came here. they were here on capitol hill all of last week, urging senators to vote in favor of
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expanding background checks. but as of today, it appears that that is not going to be the case. of course, the national rifle association has launched a very powerful countercampaign to this, arguing that the amendment would limit second amendment rights for law-abiding citizens. so there was certainly a strong back and forth. but as of this hour, i think you can expect to hear president obama react to what has just happened on the senate floor. >> kristen, heading into this vote, though, we had -- it was pretty reasonable to suggest that it was not going to succeed. so was the white house -- they could not have been taken by surprise. what do we know about where they're going to go from here with their strategy? >> reporter: oh, i don't think they were taken by surprise at all. i think that that's accurate, karen. in terms of their strategy moving forward, obviously there are some other parts of the legislation that they would like to see pass, including expanding and improving mental health services for those who need it. improving security at schools
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across the country. so i think those are still policies that the president will push to try to have enacted. but in terms of background checks right now, it appears as though a major roadblock to that moving forward. karen? >> kristen, we know that tomorrow the president and first lady are set to travel to boston for a memorial service honoring the victims of the attack. what do we know about the president's trip at this point? >> reporter: right. well, that memorial service will be an interfaith service. that will happen about 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. this is something that we have seen president obama do in the past. go to communities that are grieving. we saw this after newtown, after the shooting in tucson, arizona. and he meets with the victims privately. and then speaks before a larger audience. which is essentially what we can expect to see happen tomorrow. this is when the president sort of helps communities to begin the healing process. not only by promising to give sort of the full weight and
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resources of the federal government in terms of the investigation, but also just in terms of helping the community to heal. so, again, the president and the first lady will be making that trip. white house press secretary jay carney just announcing today that michelle obama will be joining the president on that trip tomorrow. karen? >> during the brief, i noted that carney also talked a little bit about or previewed a little bit of the message we can expect from the president tomorrow. talk a little bit about that. >> reporter: right. well, i think that he will make the point that the federal government not only stands with the families who are suffering so much right now, but also that they will continue to. of course, you've heard the president made the argument that in these moments, they are not democrats or republicans, really there are only americans. we, of course, saw that in the wake of the tragedy in boston. you saw those first responders heading into and towards the blasts that had just happened to help the people who were suffering so much in those initial moments. so i think that you will hear
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president obama echo some of those comments that he has made in the past. and also really speak to the community of boston. speak about its strengths and the fact that it will persevere through this moment. karen? >> switching gears before i let you go, earlier today there was a scare at the white house. preliminary tests on a suspicious letter that was sent to president obama indicated the presence of poisonous ricin. what new information have we learned about this investigation? >> reporter: well, here's what we know at this hour, karen. very important to point out that investigators do not believe there is any link between those letters and the bombing in boston on monday. they believe those letters were sent by a person who is known to investigators. also to the same person who sent a letter containing a suspicious substance to senator wicker. also important to point out, those letters were intercepted at an off-site mail facility. so they never came close to the white house or to the capitol. they are being tested right now for secondary tests.
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>> nbc's kristen welker, thank you. >> reporter: thanks. we'll be right back. most people think that after an accident, you'll have to pay five hundred bucks for your deductible. the truth? at allstate, you could pay zero. allstate gives you a hundred dollars off your deductible the day you sign up. then another hundred off every year you don't have an accident. let the good hands reward your safe driving with a deductible that goes away. ♪ deductible rewards. one more way you're in good hands with allstate. ♪ diarrhea, gas, bloating? yes! one phillips' colon health probiotic cap each day helps defend against these digestive issues... with three strains of good bacteria. [ phillips' lady ] live the regular life. phillips'.
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to finding the best catch... ♪ wireless is limitless. thanks so much for watching. i'm karen finny. a reminder, the president will make a statement at 5:30 p.m. eastern today. chris matthews picks up our coverage right now. whoever did this obviously did not know [ muted ] about the people of boston. a city that witt stood an 86-year losing streak! a city that made it through the big dig, a construction project that backed up traffic for 16 years! they attacked the boston marathon. an event celebrates people who run 26 miles on their day off until their nipples are raw for fun! there were runners who after finishing a marathon kept running for another two miles to the hospital to donate


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